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  • OPINION: Against resolutions?

    Posted by Chris Conley

    NEWS BLOG (WSAU) I'm going to quit smoking. I'm going to lose weight. And usually those New Years resolutions fail.

    Not that they aren't good intentions. Not smoking or getting in shape are laudable goals. But they require permanent lifestyle changes. For most of us, they're too hard. We don't do well when we make permanent decisions on a few days notice.

    Now comes an interesting cover story from the New Years Day edition of The Wausau Daily Herald: http://www.wausaudailyherald.com/article/20100101/WDH0101/1010448/-1/archive

    In 2000, they asked a group of middle school students about their thoughts, hopes, and dreams for the new decade. Many of those wishes were personal goals... things those young people would like to have for themselves as they get older. 10 years later they are adults. The results are mixed. A middle-schooler who was an anti-smoking crusader now has the habit. Another who wanted a dog still hasn't taken the leap into the responsibilities of pet ownership. A young man who wanted to drive a Hummer now drives a hybrid.

    This is a microcosm of the way long-term goals play out. Sometimes there are exceptional people who set one and diligently work towards it and have success. For most of us, long term goals are elusive. Our priorities change. We find out that we don't really want to do all the things we need to do to reach them. We settle. We compromise. We fall into our old traps and habits.

    Instead of making resolutions this new year, maybe we should break those things down into small bite-size promises to ourselves. Instead of quitting cold-turkey, maybe we'll cut out smoking breaks at work. Instead of dropping 50 pounds, maybe one fewer fast-food meal each week. The old proverb is true, long journeys begin with a single step.

    Chris Conley
    Operations Manager, Midwest Communications-Wausau
    1.2.10

  • OPINION: Creative Destruction

    Posted by Chris Conley

    NEWS BLOG (WSAU) Years ago, I remember news stories lamenting the bankruptcy of Pan Am. The airline was the first to fly many international routes to South America, and was a pioneer og American aviation. When they went belly-up, the news reporting told us that an era had passed. Same thing when TWA went out of business some years later. The air transportation industry was changing -- and wasn't that sad.

    Actually, I was happy that Pan Am and TWA faded away to corporate oblivion. When I lived in New York, discount Southwest Airlines didn't fly into any of the major New York City airports. Older, most established airlines controlled all the take-off slots and gate space. Only when some of the dinosaurs died off could Southwest move in. And JetBlue. And Airtan. Now I can fly JetBlue from Buffalo to JFK for $59; they get me there for half the price, and land at what was once TWA's main terminal.

    This is called creative destruction. The old, the inefficient, the tired get weeded out in our economy, making way for the new, the hungry, the more efficient. While this may not be a good thing if you worked for Pan Am or TWA, it is a good thing for consumers and for the economy as a whole.

    I predict that 2010 will be a year of creative destruction for the radio industry. While the change may be painful at times, in the long term it will be good for radio listeners and the economy.

    We are already seeing the start of this trend. Citadel Media filed for bankruptcy earlier this month. They own the ABC radio network, and a handful of radio stations in large cities. They are not considered top owners. In most cities, their stations are not top-rated. They did a poor job grooming a replacement for Paul Harvey, one of the best-known and most profitable broadcasters. Their ABC News radio brand as been declining while Fox News has risen. And they are facing these trends in a weak advertising environment.

    Citadel and its ABC brands will emerge from bankruptcy towards the end of 2010, and they will have to re-think the way they do radio. They may have to sell off some of their radio stations. Perhaps they will fall into the hands of owners who are better broadcasters. Some old, tired network shows will be dropped. Maybe the ABC newscasts will have a new and improved sound. All of these changes could give the audience a better listening experience.

    This is just the tip of the iceberg. Two much larger broadcasters, Clear Channel and Cumulus, both have unprecedented levels of debt from acquisitions and financial deals that were made when the economy was stronger. Both have scrambled to refinance and delay some of their payments. The long-term outlook for both companies is uncertain. What would happen if Clear Channel and Cumulus had to sell of large numbers of radio stations? You'd hear new programs, new ideas, there would be new, reengergized ownership and managers. I would be excited by these kinds of changes within the industry that I love so much.

    Creative destruction sometimes brings short-term pain for long-term gain. It is coming. Let it come.

    Chris Conley
    Operations Manager, Midwest Communications-Wausau
    12.31.09

  • OPINION: "The system worked as it was supposed to"

    Posted by Chris Conley

    NEWS BLOG (WSAU) "Those girls from Rutgers.... they got tattoos.... they're like nappy-headed hoes. And those girls from Tennessee, they're all cute.... it's like the jigaboos versus the wanna-be's...." That's how radio shock-host Don Imus described the women's basketball game between Rutgers and Tennessee in 2007. Offensive? Yes, of course. Actually, it's no more offensive than The Don Imus Show is on any other day.

    Broadcast consultant Holland Cooke shared a theory on why THIS was different. It's because of YouTube, and Facebook, MySpace, mp3s, 24-hour news, etc. Today, comments like this can bounce around cyberspace like a rubber ball. They take on a life of their own. People who didn't hear the actual broadcast still heard it though the Internet. And as rude and inappropriate as the comments were, they had a longer shelf-life and were more damaging than they otherwise would have been. Even today, this clip lives on in cyberspace.

    Why am I bringing up a radio broadcast from two-and-a-half years ago? Because the same cyberspace rubber ball effect is about to hit the Obama administration.

    "The system worked as it should" was uttered by two high-ranking Administration officials in the days after the Christmas Day attack on Northwest Airlines from 253. Exact same words, exact same reference. It was more-likely a scripted talking point than just coincidence that the identical phrasing was used. The comments are on tape, and they continue to bounce through cyberspace right now. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano may not survive this gaffe. Press Secretary Joe Gibbs, the highest-ranking spokesman for the President, will have to eat the words as his own misstatement and distance his boss from them.

    This rubber ball will bounce into TV attack campaign ads for the 2010 election. It will be damaging.

    Chris Conley
    Operations Manager, Midwest Communications-Wausau
    12.30.09

  • OPINION: Pizza Pizza Bowl?

    Posted by Chris Conley

    Little Caeasars Pizza Bowl.png

    NEWS BLOG (WSAU) The trouble started with the Independence Bowl. It was always a second-tier bowl game, usually matching two mediocre southern football teams.

    The Independence Bowl was among the first to bring in a corporate sponsor. Poulan, a company that makes yard and power tools, was the logical choice. The game was played in Shreveport, Louisiana. Poulan’s corporate headquarters were in Sherveport, and they were one of the city’s largest employers.

    Other bowl games lined up bigger, more impressive sponsors like A T & T, Federal Express, State Farm, General Mills, and Toyota. But Shreveport, Louisiana gave us the Poulan Weed-Eater Independence Bowl.

    And since then corporate sponsorships have plastered their names over some of college football’s biggest and not-so-big games. Syracuse and Colorado played in the OS2 Fiesta Bowl. The game sold its naming rights to IBM for a year. (If you don’t remember, OS2 was IBM’s new personal computer operating system, introduced in 1993.) Our Wisconsin Badgers play tonight in the Champs Sports Bowl. What used to be the Peach Bowl in Atlanta is now the Chick-fil-A Bowl. What used to be the Hall of Fame Bowl is now the Outback Bowl. The Tangerine Bowl became the Florida Citrus Bowl and is now the Capital One Bowl. And this year we have the inaugural Pizza Pizza Bowl, played in Detroit, and sponsored by Little Ceasars. Not to be outdone, there's the Papajohns.com Bowl in Birmingham, Alabama.

    There are many good reasons for a college football playoff system. Getting rid of over-the-top corporate sponsorships would be one.

    Chris Conley
    Operations Manager-Midwest Communications, Wausau
    12.29.09

  • OPINION: Surprisingly successful

    Posted by Chris Conley

    NEWS BLOG (WSAU) What strikes me as the most important part of the Nigerian terror plot is that it succeeded.

    He and his co-conspirators succeeded in getting the chemicals that they needed to make the explosives.

    They succeeded in assembling them and putting them on the person of the would-be suicide bomber.

    They succeeded in getting an airline ticket (seat 19-A, directly under the wing's fuel tank), and a US visa, despite being on a terror watch list.

    He succeeded in getting through airport security, not arousing any suspicion even though he said he was staying in the United States for two weeks, and had no luggage with him except for a small overnight bag.

    He succeeded in not being picked out by homeland security when the flight's passenger list was screened.

    He succeeded in getting on the flight, and despite suspicious behavior like huddling under a blanket and monopolizing the plane's bathroom, he succeeded in not arousing any additional scrutiny from the flight crew.

    He succeeded in mixing his chemical bomb and lighting it ablaze as the plane came in for a landing.

    The only thing that went wrong was that he didn't pack enough explosives in his jock strap, and didn't created a violent-enough chemical reaction to bring the plane down. Other than that miscalculation, this terror plot was a success. It thwarted every security safeguard we had in place.

    The 9-11 commission's final report said that for several years before the attacks on New York and Washington, radical terrorists were at war with the United States, but we were not with them. Nine years later, are we back to where we were before? They are still on a war footing. We appear to be inept.

    Chris Conley
    Operations Manager, Midwest Communications-Wausau
    12.28.09

    - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    But wait, there's more:

    White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, briefing reporters about the incident, says "the system worked the way it was supposed to." How the official spokesman of the President of the United States could say such a thing is incredible. Surely Rham Emmanuel or someone else higher up in the Administration will be having a conversation with Mr. Gibbs.

    If the terror suspect, and his co-conspiritors, were better at chemesty, we would have seen the spectacular results of system failure.

  • OPINION: Christmas In Wisconsin

    Posted by Chris Conley

    NEWS BLOG (WSAU) WSAU begins its special "Christmas In Wisconsin" programming Thursday at 2pm.

    Our Christmas programming is traditional. We play the old songs, we tell the old stories, we remember the way Christmas was from our childhood.

    Here are some of our programming highlights:

    Thursday

    2:00pm - An hour of Christmas music, hosted by Pat Snyder
    3:30pm - Tom King reads "The Little Match Girl"
    4:00pm - An hour of Christmas music, hosted by Chris Conley
    5:30pm - Matt Lehman reads "Yes Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus"
    6:00pm - The WSAU sales department hosts an hour of its favorite Christmas music
    8:00pm - Chrismas Eve church service from Zion Lutheran Church in Wausau
    9:00pm - Highlights from The Wausau Lyric Chior
    10:30p - Selections from the Christmas Festival at St. Olaf College
    11:00p - The Messiah

    Friday

    7:00am - An hour of Christmas music, hosted by Tom King
    8:30am - Chris Conley reads "The Littlest Angel"
    9:00am - Matt Lehman from the WSAU newsroom hosts an hour of holiday music
    10:00a - Christmas Morning church service from Zion Lutheran Church in Wausau
    11:30a - The WSAU sales department lends their voices to read "Twas The Night Before Christmas"
    12:30p - Pat Snyder reads "The Man and The Birds"

    WSAU's Christmas programming continues until 7pm on Christmas night

    In all honesty, a lot of Christmas programming on the radio stinks. It's a day off for most stations. And a lot of the modern Christmas music is materialistic and doesn't capture the true spirit of the day.

    I hope you'll spend some time with WSAU this Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We're a family-friendly soundtrack for wrapping presents on Thursday night and opening gifts on Friday morning.

    And we wish you a Merry Christmas.

    Chris Conley
    Operations Manager, Midwest Communications-Wausau
    12.24.09

     

  • OPINION: The Christmas manger

    Posted by Chris Conley

    NEWS BLOG (WSAU) Some years ago, the town board of Fairfield, Connecticut passed a local ordinance about religious symbols being displayed on public land. They weren't anti-Christmas. But they were worried about getting sued. There was a complaint by someone with a lawyer over the manger scene that had been displayed under the large spruce tree on the town green.

    The ordinance said that religious displays on public land were were ok, as long as they were put up by a private group, and so long as they were not left unattended.

    I was a radio reporter at the time, and I reported on Nello Ceccarelli, an elderly, devoutly religious man who put up the manger on Christmas Eve, and sat near it on Christmas night until Christmas morning. It was a very cold Christmas eve, and Nello sat bundled up in a lawn chair until the following morning.

    The next year, Nello brought a second chair with him. Perhaps some well-wishers would want to stop by and sit with him awhile during the night. And a few hearty souls did.

    As Nello got older, people from his church offered to spend the night with him in the cold. He'd only have to stay for an hour. Others would take turns keeping vigil over the manger. Nello insisted on staying the entire night, He said the experience had become deeply moving for him. But others were welcome to join him. And they did. People would stop and visit. Some would pray at the manger. Others would join voices and sing Christmas carols. One year the Knights of Columbus sent their honor guard to stand watch.

    My last year in Connecticut I brought my kids to the Fairfield town green to show them what was going on. That night more than a hundred people were there sharing the holiday spirit. "This is the true meaning of Christmas," Nello said to me and my kids on what would be our last Christmas before moving to Wisconsin.

    I'm not sure if Nello is still alive. He was an old man when I first met him, and his health was failing the last few years. I'm certain there are still people gathering at the manger on the town green.

    Chris Conley
    Operations Manager, Midwest Communications-Wausau
    12.23.09

  • OPINION: Nobody likes this

    Posted by Chris Conley

    Two columnists appeared in print on the same day in The Washington Post. To the left of the fold was EJ Dionne, the dean of liberal pundits, saying the health care bill stinks. His message was that progressives should bottle their anger and save it for the next health care fight. He believes the public option and abortion funding will be back in-play in the years ahead. (Also, as a humorous aside, Dionne doesn't like the parliamentary rules of the U.S. Senate requiring 60 votes -- unless they're being used by Democrats to block George W. Bush's federal judge appointees.)

    To the right of the fold, conservative Robert Samuelson writes that the true costs of health care reform are unknown and are likely underestimated.

    Read both op-ed pieces here: http://tinyurl.com/yemd34p and http://tinyurl.com/ybhg9za

    Both writers (who've both been guests on WSAU's Feedback program) have come to the conclusion that health care reform spends a tremendous amount of money while making no one happy. For Republicans in congress, this shows their inability to stop anything. For Democrats, it shows that when push comes to shove they can achieve only hollow victories on major agenda items. For taxpayers, the costs are tremendous.

    You have already heard from several political commentators that the taxes to begin paying for health care reform will begin immediately, although most of the benefits won't begin flowing for another 4-5 years. Now consider something no one is talking about. Do you think the 4-5 years of tax money will be stashed away to pay for upcoming health care costs? Or do you think congress will borrow against it, like it does with the social security trust fund? That money has already been spent. Just like social security is now funded with treasury note IOUs, so too will your health care starting in 2013.

    Chris Conley
    Operations Manager, Midwest Communications-Wausau
    12.22.09

  • OPINION: Wausau makes a good budget cut

    Posted by Chris Conley

    NEWS BLOG (WSAU) Wausau city leaders propose shutting down the public access cable channel. It's the channel were you can watch City Council meetings. And when the city council is not in session, it's where you see church services, school plays, and other community content.

    The savings for the city: $90,000. The city will cut the salary of the person who coordinates the channel's line-up, and will save on buying and maintaining the equipment that's used.

    This is a cut that makes sense.

    Why?

    The next time you drive around Wausau, look at all the satellite dishes attached to people's homes. Those are people who use Dish Network or Direct TV. They are not cable customers, so they do not see the cable access channel. Same thing for people who get their tv through an antenna instead of cable. As cable tv's share of the marketplace goes down, fewer and fewer people are seeing what's on public access.

    But the issue goes beyond number of eyeballs looking at a screen. This is a question of being cost-effective.

    What's the cost of putting City Council meetings on YouTube? Nothing. It's free. And unlike public access, the YouTube video can be watched at the viewers convenience, and can archived forever. That kind of on-demand video is far more valuable than a watch-by-appointment cable channel.

    Church groups and high school drama clubs can set up their own YouTube pages at no cost. The Christmas Mass, The Music Man, and the holiday parade will also be available, on-line, forever.

    When the city has a better alternative that's free, doesn't it make sense to save the money?

    Chris Conley
    Operations Manager-Midwest Communications, Wausau
    12.21.09

  • OPINION: Healthcare fallout

    Posted by Chris Conley

    NEWS BLOG (WSAU) "At least I can sleep easy knowing that Republicans will get control of Congress, and Obama will be a one-term President."

    That was one of the comments on our message board after the health care bill passed its procedural vote in the Senate early this morning.

    I understand the anger among opponents of health care reform. But I think the political analysis is wrong.

    Assuming health care reform wins final approval, the morning after everything stays the same for virtually all Americans. Most of us have health insurance, and for us the immediate changes will be pre-existing conditions will be covered and lifetime maximums on benefits will be lifted. If our premiums go up, that won't happen until next year. Most of us will not pay more in taxes, unless we earn more than $200,000. The morass that is government-run heath care, with the mandatory buy-ins and public exchanges and all those regulations won't start until five years from now. It's a bill where the benefits are front-loaded; the painful (unpopular) changes are back-loaded.

    Voters may throw someone out of office if Congressman So-and-so makes an unpopular vote that increases their taxes. But the pain from this bill is down the road, and voters memories are short.

    Yes, the job market will continue to be sluggish because it will cost employers more to hire workers. But those are indirect impacts that voters tend not to demand political accountability for. In the meantime, Barack Obama gets to claim a major political victory. He'll get to say how good health care reform is, and in politics if you say something often enough, people tend to believe it.

    Chris Conley
    Operations Manager-Midwest Communications, Wausau
    12.21.09

  • OPINION: Missing The Point

    Posted by Chris Conley

    NEWS BLOG (WSAU) State Representative Marlin Schneider (D-Wisconsin Rapids) has a point. He was the only state lawmaker to vote against the new drunk driving bill. By targeting only repeat offenders, it does nothing to solve Wisconsin's drinking and driving problem. Schneider's way of thinking makes the bill worse than doing nothing. It fails to solve the problem, but adds tremendous enforcement and incarceration costs. In voting no, he argues that scarce state dollars should be directed towards other problems that might actually get fixed.

    Steve Meinel has a point too. We're approaching the one-year anniversary of the death of his daughter at the hands of a drunk driver who was so blitzed that he didn't realize he was driving in the wrong direction on a divided highway. He's watched his daughter's killer plea-bargain down to a ridiculously-light five year sentence. And Meinel now stands up to say it's wrong that if the driver simply manged to avoid his wife and daughter's car, he would have only been issued a non-criminal traffic citation as a first-time offender.

    His proposal: 30-days in jail for a first-OWI. 2-years for a second. Not only does that proposal not even get out of the blocks, only two of our state lawmakers have the courage to sign Lacey's pledge, where they personally promise not to drink and drive.

    State lawmakers will head home and tell you they're really cracked down on drunk driving. I hope Governor Doyle invites Steve Meinel to the signing ceremony, and I hope a man who's suffered a great loss gets a chance to speak his mind.

    Chris Conley
    Operations Manager-Midwest Communications, Wausau
    12.17.09